Ships Nostalgia banner

Status
Not open for further replies.
1 - 20 of 99 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,034 Posts
Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Some time ago I wrote a short story of my experiences at nautical college and as a Ben line cadet in the fifties and posted it on another seafaring site. I have been fortunate to get a lot of responses from people all over the place.

In my story I expressed how much I enjoyed these experiences and my regret that I foolishly left after only 4 years.

Most of the responses indicated that, in leaving when I did, I may have been one of the lucky ones. They almost all said that the Brirish MN was on a downhill run from about the mid sixties onward. I have often wondered what caused this downfall and have looked for a short explanation, I guess the executive summary, but all I have found are sites with pretty political and forceful views, can anyone suggest a site that will give me a simple explanation of the events?
 

·
Banned
Joined
·
2,505 Posts
It can probably be summed up in a short sentence when all is said and done. Try lack of support, incentives and finance for the British Merchant Navy and its service providers.
Cheers...
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,034 Posts
Discussion Starter #3
Mn

Doug Rogers said:
It can probably be summed up in a short sentence when all is said and done. Try lack of support, incentives and finance for the British Merchant Navy and its service providers.
Cheers...
By whom....the government?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
842 Posts
Yes George, I heard of similar experiences but companys were already reducing their tonnages and qualified personnel were competing for fewer jobs.

I agree with Doug, typically shortsighted politicians
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
532 Posts
Sorry, it will have to be explained to me how it can be that simple. "Politicians" and that's it?
Politicians were in place all through the hundreds of years of the halcyon days of shipping. Lets not forget that the Danes, the Dutch, the Norwegians, Germans, Finns, French, Belgian, US, Spanish, Portugese, Russian, Polish etc. all had thriving fleets that we saw in ports all over the world. Everyone made a good living even if some made better than others.

Look at this factor. Take tankers. When the norm was for a tanker to be in the 10,000 to 15,000 ton range it took a complement of about 35 men total to man her.
Captain and 3 mates. 2 or 3 officer cadets. Chief, 2nd, 3rd, 4th engineer, stewards, deck and engine room crew. Employment for 35 seamen on one ship, and there were hundreds of ships. I think in my days that Shell alone had over 135 tankers under the British flag alone.
Suddenly, and it was suddenly, along came bigger ships until it finished up that one 150,00 tonner had the same number to man her. That's equal to 15 crews of smaller tonnage. That's 14 captains, 14 chief engineers 44 mates, 44 engineers, and how many stewards, deck and engineroom crews where there's no jobs for them.
In just a very few years, aircraft took thousands of jobs away from the passenger liners of all flags. Hundreds of thousands of jobs worldwide.
On top of that the ship owners got greedier than they always were. They flagged the ships out so they could employ cheap, non-unionised 3rd worlders. Less stringent demands on officer and engineers qualifications.
Container ships don't need trained deck personnel, men with seamanship skills are no longer needed on that type of ship. Deck laborers are all that's needed there. Due to advances in communications, radio officers are extinct. Engines are run and monitored from the bridge, with computers monitoring everything down there and sending all the info to head office via sattelite.
Sad as it is, it is all part of ongoing progress and had an impact equal to the shift from sail to steam.
It was inevitable, however distasteful it was to us. Us who somehow thought this idyllic life can never end.
If you want to blame politicians then you have to blame politicians of every nationality that I mentioned because the same thing happened to their seafaring population.
I forecast that one day the only ship's crews there will be will be those that go out in small boats to meet and bring in to port those totally unmanned satellite driven ships that will sail the world.
Just think how happy the owners will be then. No crew to pay. No crew to feed. No crew to fly to some part of the world to join a ship. It's gonna come, have no doubt about it.
 

·
Banned
Joined
·
21 Posts
This is the copy of a post I made on 15th May of this year,


I can remember back in the sixties, a very knowledgeable Old Man saying to me,

' You know Third Mate in the next century ships wont have crews, they will be totally automated and be sent by remote control ( his words not mine )
from Country to Country. Make the most of this type of sailing, it has not got many years left. '

We have not quite got that far yet, but I think we are nearly there. He was a very wise Old Man and I had a lot of respect for him.

Chris.


I think think its worth repeating again here. A very far sighted person.

Chris.
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
14,864 Posts
What about the crippling seamans strike which must have driven a nail into the coffin. The union man who organised it is running the country this week,
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
278 Posts
Mn

The Danes were going to try very minimum crews on liner sevices i presume one of their container runs putting mooring gangs or riggers on board for berthing wether they implimented or experimented with it I do not know or have never read about it in any Maritime publicationin Europe / Stateside.
The main reason MONEY. you guys in Europe were flown home every 3 or 4 months expenses to be met by the owner,contract crewing was the way with Asian officers and seamen doing a year for $450 per month,against European seafarers rates and even the logistics side of moving crews about once a year were or still are handled by the contract provider.I sailed on a couple of Brits in the fifties and it was 2 year agreements,and some of them did the 2 years away from th UK even a reasonable trip was about 10 months. You do not need to be a numbers pusher to work it out
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,872 Posts
Decline of the British Merchant Navy

To be accurate if you left in the mid sixities ( seamans strike 66) - there ere still a few "good years" to go. Correct med if I am wrong ( I am sure someone will with the expertise on this site) but, I believe, the peak year for British Registered tonnage was around 1973?

The problems were surely

1. Huge changes in scale of ships tankers ( as explained) but box boats too 1 for 6 or 8 smaller conventional ships.

2,. Britains entry into the common market reduced Australasian and other trades as the build up of imports by ferry from Europe instead.

3. Yes, of course lack of support from the UK Government - whilst other countries were supporting their emerging MN.

4. Plus of course flags of convenience

5.??? Others .........please add.

The result of all these points is why the British MN is a shadow of the past. Plus ( as a member of a the NI - I get the regular magazine on current life at sea) it seems today - paperwork, automation and legislation that "blames" the crew for everything and even prevents shoreleave - makes me wonder how anyone goes to see in 2005????
 

·
Banned
Joined
·
21 Posts
I believe the rot started in the middle to late sixties. I know from my own experience that the trade with South America was failing.

We used to come back full to overflowing with timber, tobacco, cotton & other stuff, but into the middle to late sixties, the ships were starting to come back two thirds to a half full. They just could not get the cargos.

The company then began to cut down on the ships and of course the crews, the great decline started then. The dock strikes made things alot worse and cost the shipping companies millions. Containerisation was just starting and the new buildings were being designed to accomadate that as well. Bigger ships etc.

It started then, in the middle to late sixties.

Chris.
 

·
Super Moderator
Joined
·
5,620 Posts
It all depends how you define demise. The British flag merchant fleet is growing strongly today, thanks to the introduction of tonnage tax, where the total tax payable by a shipowner is based on their ships' tonnage regardless of the profit they make. This tax system is the same as that used by the Italian and Dutch governments. It is the first time a British Government has introduced a tax system for shipowners that is competitive.

NUMAST and the other organisations trying to maximise their union subscriptions may complain that the ships do not need to employ British crews, but that's the way international competition works. Our present standard of living is entirely dependent upon international trade, I doubt if the British population would consider any other arrangement.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,034 Posts
Discussion Starter #15
Thank you all for answering my question. I almost wish I hadn't asked it in the first place it is so depressing. In oldbosun's reply it just seems it was inevitable.

I guess I was lucky to get out when I did, I can still have a few rums on a Friday night and all my memories are good. Those of you who stayed on must have been broken hearted to see what happened.

In a previous thread Chris wisely said that modern young people would be better off if they'd had our training.

Once again thank you for the explanations I'm sure it would have been pretty painful for some of you and I appreciate you taking the trouble.
 

·
Banned
Joined
·
2,505 Posts
waiwera said:
To be accurate if you left in the mid sixities ( seamans strike 66) - there ere still a few "good years" to go. Correct med if I am wrong ( I am sure someone will with the expertise on this site) but, I believe, the peak year for British Registered tonnage was around 1973?

The problems were surely

1. Huge changes in scale of ships tankers ( as explained) but box boats too 1 for 6 or 8 smaller conventional ships.

2,. Britains entry into the common market reduced Australasian and other trades as the build up of imports by ferry from Europe instead.

3. Yes, of course lack of support from the UK Government - whilst other countries were supporting their emerging MN.

4. Plus of course flags of convenience

5.??? Others .........please add.

The result of all these points is why the British MN is a shadow of the past. Plus ( as a member of a the NI - I get the regular magazine on current life at sea) it seems today - paperwork, automation and legislation that "blames" the crew for everything and even prevents shoreleave - makes me wonder how anyone goes to see in 2005????
I think you have covered the area extremely well and I concur with all you have said...the times they were certainly a changing!!..but if the British Govt had been more proactive than they were the end result for the MN may well have been much better today.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
987 Posts
As I have already outlined before in another post somewhere on the site, the demise of the UK merchant fleet dates from the first budget of the Thatcher/Howe period, 1980, when the government withdrew accelerated depreciation from British shipowners, thus putting them at a severe disadvantage to many other flag state owners and foc operators in particular. Although I have not lived in the UK for several years now I do understand that the current government have taken some measures to encourage and assist the UK fleet again. However, another legacy from the Thatcher/Major era is that it is no longer mandatory to have British national manning British flagged vessels.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
870 Posts
However, another legacy from the Thatcher/Major era is that it is no longer mandatory to have British national manning British flagged vessels.[/QUOTE]

It never was.

Tony C
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
278 Posts
If it is not mandatory to crew British flagged ships with Uk seafarers why did Evergreen when they moved some vessels to the British flag, ship their own nationals over to the UK to sit for the UK certification, when they were already qualified seafarers.
 

·
Banned
Joined
·
25 Posts
Doesn't anyone reading oldbosun's posting equate many of those cir***stances with the loss of industrial production now taking place in Europe, North America and even, to some extent, Japan? The problem ain't peculiar to the maritime sector, it's industry wide: it happened that cir***stances brought the changes to the shipping sector before other segments of our traditional industrial base were affected.
The loss of industrial might, maritme or otherwise, to the flags (or countries) of convenience (cheap labor, lack of humane standards, etc.) was only the beginning of an ongoing process which continues today.

Bruce C.
 
1 - 20 of 99 Posts
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top